The key Labour question: 3 or 6?

The new Labour leader will be announced on Tuesday. But before choosing Labour members need to decide if they see the rebuild as a three or six year project

The four candidates who hope to lead the Labour Party into the 2017 election have stumped all their stump speeches and debated all their debate points. Now comes the voting. And the party members must be wishing they could vote for one of John Key's four or five headed hydras.

The first Labour primary race had novelty and characters on its side. Shane Jones was a smart maverick, David Cunliffe for all his later sins had vim and vigour and Grant Robertson was the coming man.

This race has lacked spark and has failed to capture the imagination of the public or the press gallery; you could be forgiven for having forgotten the race, and indeed the Labour Party, altogether.

All four candidates have distinct virtues, but none of them are the complete package. Hence my hydra quip. If Labour could have the head of one, the torso of another and the heart of another, you might get a leader voters could get excited about. As it stands, Labour will have to take a different route.

Whoever wins, Labour won't be a charismatic party that voters will turn to as an exciting alternative to National. Instead, whoever wins will have to win back voters' trust through being dependable, decent and speaking to the interests of the many.

'Decent' recalls Jim Bolger's 'decent society' slogan, and Bolger would be a pretty good role model for any winner. Not a flamboyant or visionary politician, but one who knew how to win elections.

So who to vote for? For me Labour Party members will need to start by asking themselves this question: Can Labour win in 2017?

Essentially, is this a three year or six year project? Is one of those four the next Labour Prime Minister? Because that answer suggests different people.

If Grant Robertson wins with his promise of a "new generation", it'd be reasonable for him to expect two cracks at National, assuming he at least closes the gap in 2017. He's young and he's a more long-term choice.

So if you're a Labourite who thinks 2017 is a long shot and that the next Labour Prime Minister is more likely to be Kelvin Davis or Stuart Nash (or maybe even Jacinda Ardern), then Robertson isn't your man. Better to go for Andrew Little or David Parker.

Little may also hope for two shots, but I don't get the sense that's as certain as with Robertson. Little has stressed the need for policy change and urgent overhaul, so he's given the impression he thinks he can win in 2017, especially given his talk of Labour being a 50 percent party.

And Parker is the night watchman. Given the right winds, a tiring attack and flat track, he might just be able to beat Key in 2017. It's a long shot, but maybe. But he would buy you time, reorganise the party and rebuild support while Davis or Nash were getting ready. Y'know, what Phil Goff was meant to have done (and did do to a large extent, until David Shearer and David Cunliffe and the ABCs stuffed it up).

No, it's not an inspiring choice. But that's the way I see it. On Tuesday we'll get a decent sense of whether Labour's in this for three or six years.